The Sound of Seaweed Soup


Tasha Burgoyne -Seaweed Soup3

I have this picture of my mom etched in my mind along with a myriad of childhood memories. She is standing at the kitchen stove, leaning on her right leg, bent over some kind of bubbling, dark, cloudy liquid. It is the kind of Korean soup that hid a number of odd vegetables and a few things I didn’t even know the English translation for.

I grew up eating Korean food and all of the American classics. I always thought of my childhood palate as a good representation of my ethnic make-up: mixed.

Yet aside from the two simple Korean soups I embraced as child, one with rice-cakes and another filled with sweet radishes, I was reluctant over all of the others my mom made. And she made a lot. Our stove frequently had a pot full of something boiling or simmering. These were the soups with an earthy smell and texture; the ones I was afraid to even dip my spoon into.

When my mom stood over these various pots of spicy stew and dirt-colored broth, I knew she was remembering things she had yet to tell me about. When I turned away from her offered spoon with a scrunched-up nose, unyielding, I tried to ignore the fact that I was refusing more than soup. For years, I told myself that it was okay if I would rather just eat Spaghetti O’s and Campbell’s chicken noodles like the other kids I knew. I told myself it was only a matter of taste and preference.

The sound of soup bubbling on the stoves of my childhood memories resonates throughout my story of personal acceptance and embrace.

After our first son was born over eight years ago, my parents came to visit. My mom stood at our stove over a huge pot making seaweed soup like that picture of her etched in my mind from childhood. It was January, but because seasons mean nothing in Florida’s humidity, it didn’t feel like January. The last thing I wanted was something hot, let alone wet seaweed. Peeking under the lid of the pot, my mom rambled on about how I needed to eat this particular soup. She told me Korean women ate it after giving birth and insisted on me trying some and eating the entire pot. I was hormonal, tired and didn’t listen. I ate a few spoonfuls and never finished the rest.

Almost a year later, I was in a bookstore pushing my son around in his stroller and I stopped in the international cookbook aisle. I found a Korean cookbook with beautiful pictures and stories. I turned a page and there it was: Seaweed Soup. I started reading the author’s description and about the Korean tradition of giving new mothers this special healing soup. Standing in the aisle as I read, I cried like a baby.

It wasn’t just my mother’s culture I was resisting every time I opposed an offered spoonful. I was resisting myself. I was turning from another chance to accept the way God had made me. I was rebelling against my own contentment, allowing shame to chase me instead of standing firm to embrace all of me.

Just a few months ago on a plane ride over the Pacific on the way to bring home our third child and only daughter, I asked for the Korean meal. Sitting on my tray was a plastic bowl of seaweed soup.

I pulled back the foil lid. Steam poured out of the opening as if it was a translucent arm reaching for me, gracefully offering me another chance to accept every part of my story.

I drank it all. I drank it because I craved something more than taste. I craved being true to myself, no longer as just the daughter of a Korean mother, but now also the mother of a Korean daughter.

We are made to be true to the story God has given us, sisters. Are you listening to yours? No matter what unique and different sounds or tastes they come with, let’s give one another the courage to conform only to the likeness of Christ and invite each other to empty our bowls of shame, one spoonful at a time, and come home.